Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Protein linked to Alzheimer's disease doesn't act alone


Karen Mallet

GUMC researchers find APP needs to work with 'Reelin' protein to maintain healthy communication between brain neurons

Washington, DC – A team of U.S. investigators led by neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) are steadily uncovering the role that amyloid precursor protein (APP) - the protein implicated in development of Alzheimer's disease - plays in normal brain function. In the June 10 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, they discovered that APP interacts with another protein known as Reelin to promote development of abundant connections between brain neurons.

Reelin, named for mice that "reel" around when they don't have the protein, has been thought to be involved in stimulating growth of neuronal dendrites – the branching projections that transmit signals to other neurons. It also has been implicated in some brain disorders, but up until now, little was known about how Reelin interacts with APP.

Researchers say that showing that APP and Reelin work together doesn't have immediate implications for therapeutic treatment of Alzheimer's disease in humans, but they say the work helps provide the background necessary to understand finally why a brain veers toward the progressive memory loss seen in this devastating disease, which impacts 5.3 million people yearly in the U.S..

"In the last 20 years we have made tremendous progress in understanding how APP can become toxic. But I think the flip side is equally interesting: Why does APP even exist in the brain? We are only now just beginning to figure that out," says the study's senior author, G. William Rebeck, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at GUMC.

What has long been known is that mutations in the gene that the whole article

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